Steve Gilliard: Liberals Must Engage on Non-News Stories Too

I found this interesting take on the proliferation of non-news stories, and how liberals should be dealing with them, by Steve Gilliard via Daily Kos:

If CNN basically covers this story all Saturday, it’s news. It’s not a debate. It is news, and malaria isn’t. Instead of wishing it wasn’t news, we need to subvert it. We need to discuss it in wider terms, class, race, sex. We need to bring depth to the debate. I mean this story gets weirder by the day. But if you don’t engage it, bring different perspectives to it, the media gets away clean again. When people say “you don’t cover this story” people think “liberal whiner”. If they want to talk about runaway brides, let’s talk about runaway brides, but intelligently, questioning the sex roles of men and women and the economic cost and pressure in a large wedding. There is fertile ground for smart people, but they have to seize the target and change the debate.

One of the great tricks of conservative pundits was to talk about ANY topic. No matter what it was, they had an opinion, got face time and then book deals. They saw this as fertile ground to extend the debate. We have to engage these issues and bring new perspectives on them…

There’s a sort of snobishness about news on the left. I don’t watch TV, I only read the Guardian. Give me a fucking break. Most people think Angel comes after Guardian and when you don’t watch TV, you might as well say pinko hippie. If you want to change minds, you have to speak their language and it’s in things people care about.

If you don’t have an opinion on the latest circus, your opinion on more serious matters will not count. You don’t have to spend every day repeating Eonline, but you have to understand the culture, even the vulgar parts, to change it. If you do not engage the debate at hand, you will become irrelevant. Even if the debate is not a big deal in the end. Walking away, as we did so many times before, is no longer an option.

As a news junkie who has TVs in four out of six rooms in my house (I have two bathrooms, so do the math), I think liberals should be willing to jump in on whatever the cablenewsers fixate on – especially if the topic is drawing fire from wingnuts.

In all the hundreds of hours (or so it seemed) of Schiavo coverage, I never heard anyone say what I wanted to scream: “Let that poor girl go, you monsters! Imagine being trapped in that body, chained to that bed, for 15 years. I hope she is not sentient because if she is she is in agony.”

The Runaway Bride is a different story. We all know what was going on there. The news execs smelled another Peterson case, and murder trials are cheaper and easier to cover than war and terrorism, and trials grab more attention than important topics like global warming. Relatives of missing daughters are easier “gets” for Larry King than movie stars. And while these real people may be less intriguing to TV viewers than movie stars, they’re more interesting than politicians, who tend to be inversely as easy to “get” as they are newsworthy.

The endless barrage of non-news stories produces info-pablum for the masses – it is in the news, therefore it is more high-brow than mere gossip. But the rightwing has learned to jump in on a given topic on the cable shows and infest the story with their phony morality. As the story is digested into the culture at water coolers and over lattes or manicures, the by-product has little or no reality-based, corrective opinion from the Left. Having lost our credibilityon mundane matters, our foundation on loftier issues becomes shakier still in the minds of the masses.

This is how they do it – Rove & Co. The Big Lie infects virally. It enters the discourse with dead-eyed politicians blathering about Terri Schiavo’s right to life on Fox and washes out into the culture as a fantastical new reality in which it suddenly seems logical to un-smart people that activist judges are more dangerous than terrorists and must be stopped – even killed – in order to protect the “right to life” of comatose people and microscopic zygotes.

In order to save America from theocracy, we must engage the enemy where they are winning the war – not in Washington, but in the real world where real people’s lives are embued with the popular culture. Hell, liberals invented the concept of injecting our values into the popular culture. The time has come to get back in the game.


One thought on “Steve Gilliard: Liberals Must Engage on Non-News Stories Too”

  1. As someone whose sole TV can most charitably be described as “vintage,” I probably fall into the “I don’t watch TV, I only read the Guardian” category. Except that the reason I don’t watch TV is because I can’t afford cable, and besides, I get almost all my news online.

    Still, there are differences between those of us who keep up with the TV version of events and those who don’t. I did notice it with the Runaway Bride story. For one thing, I foolishly started to email that story to people when it had probably been on CNN for a couple of days before I realized it. But I did notice something when the topic came up in person. Someone would say, “Did you hear the runaway bride was previously engaged?” and I would say, “I just saw a story online before this whole thing started about how the average cost of a wedding today is $26,000.” A short, silent lull would ensue, then someone would get the discussion back on track, back to the point, which is that the runaway bride is a flake or has other personal attributes of concern to the entire country.

    Conversely, I was surprised at the lack of feeding frenzy around the 13-year-old girl in Florida foster care who wanted an abortion. I thought surely when the courts ruled she could, then she couldn’t, then she could that we had another Schiavo case on our hands. Instead, the whole thing is quietly fading away. I think that’s partly because Jeb didn’t fight so hard this time, and that’s partly because she was in his care when she became pregnant. Embarrassing to say the least. But also, I think we can’t discount the effect of not having any money or people who love you to scream about your mistreatment. Who cares about a little foster child after all? Let’s talk about things that matter, like runaway brides and Michael Jackson and that guy who can talk now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.